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Yale University, Institute of Human RelationsMotivation and Reward in Learning (1948)

something has gone horribly wrong 8-p
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Uses white rats to picture trial-and-error problem solving and to demonstrate the importance of motivation and reward in the learning process.

This movie is part of the collection: Prelinger Archives

Producer: Yale University, Institute of Human Relations
Sponsor: N/A
Audio/Visual: Sd, B&W
Keywords: Psychology; Animals: Rats

Creative Commons license: Public Domain

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Average Rating: 4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars4.00 out of 5 stars

Reviewer: Spuzz - 5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars5.00 out of 5 stars - November 13, 2003
Subject: "I want you to bite me as hard as you can'
as I have said many times before, you just don't know what you'll expect in Rick Prelinger's Surprise film factory! in this film, we get to see rats tested on to see if they can remember how to get food (by pulling on a lever) and how not to get shocked ("causing discomfort, but not enough to harm the rat" Yeah right, is that why they're jumping up and down?) by either pulling a lever, turning a wheel, biting a cord, and best of all, biting each other! They say that all of this can prove rats can learn to do simple things. So, if you're thinking of getting into the rat fighting business, well this is your film! A MUST SEE on this site!

Reviewer: Steve Nordby - 3.00 out of 5 stars3.00 out of 5 stars3.00 out of 5 stars - September 14, 2003
Subject: The behaviorist basis of modern US education
Pellets of food or electric shocks are delivered to rat students depending on their behavior. Reward and punishment, except the word punishment is never used, no it's "motivation". The goal is to control the student's behavior. Humane treatment or happiness is superfluous. Since the drive produced by shock is stronger than hunger, we know that well fed students aren't stupid or lazy, "all they need is a little motivation."

A well done clinical film for its era in spite of the euphemistic "motivation". Generalizing on studies such as this film illustrates, "educators" developed similar schemes to motivate human students.


Uses white rats to picture trial and error problem solving and to demonstrate the importance of motivation and reward in the learning process. The hungry rat learns to get food by pressing a bar while the satiated animal goes to sleep. The latter's learned ability to turn off a mild electric shock by striking a lever evidences his learning capacity to be comparable to that of his hungry companion. Other illustrations show animals learning to rotate a wheel, bite a rubber tube, and strike another animal to avoid electric shock.

Psychology Behaviorism Conditioned Reflexes Experiments Animals Hunger